A Week With Lynda Barry

The creative juices are flowing after having spent a week in Lynda Barry’s Writing the Unthinkable class.

Lynda took us through a series of tightly structured writing and drawing exercises. The one you see on this page is a double spread word and picture story that we did in 16 minutes. Shark Bite Victim was my camp name.

We also wrote stories. The following story was done in about 8 minutes. The topic was “someone else’s mother,” and I wrote this from the point of view of my mother about someone else’s mother.

I am standing in my own house. I have just come home from work. I am tired. I look through the doorway leading into my dining room. Elaine, my houseguest, is sitting at my dining room table with her adult children. They are all mad at me because I have asked Elaine to leave. They’re not speaking to me. The reason Elaine is here is because her daughter, Mary, asked me if Elaine could stay with me “temporarily.” Mary was my daughter’s best friend through high school. Mary is a piece of work. She knows I’m a pushover for this kind of thing. Why, you might ask, doesn’t Mary ask her own mother to stay with her? The answer is simple. Elaine is stark raving mad. Nobody knows if Elaine’s mental illness is the result of nature or nurture. The back story is that she left her husband and kids in the 60s, moved into a commune in the Haight Ashbury, and took every drug known to man. Eventually, I get Elaine to move out. She moves one block away. She lives in a ground floor apartment on Sanchez Street. The last known sighting of Elaine is of her dancing naked in front of her window.